I love all the new gear that comes out each year for the fitness industry. One of my favorites is the belt that stores all your hydration and food needs during long runs or workout sessions. Have you ever seen a marathoner or ultra marathoner use one of those? Better yet, have you ever used one? If so, you would know why sustenance is so important during endurance events. The body needs the type of fuel that will be absorbed quickly and last as long as possible. Think dense, slow-burning electrolytes and carbohydrates, clean fats, and hydration (o2).
The funny thing is the body doesn’t need fuel during a workout that’s anything shorter than two hours, in most cases. So when I see someone reach for a triple-stacked berry mocha chocolate protein powder shake with added spirolina, bananas, and peanut butter after a 40-60 minute workout and, I wonder:
Did you come into the gym right after an 18-mile run, and if so, then why are you here doing a high-intensity interval workout? If you really did do an 18-mile run before you came to the gym, then you will need that 4,000-calorie drink you just concocted.
Are you trying to add body fat? If so, great, because all the calories you burned during the workout will be added right back into your body with that drink. In some cases, the amount of calories you consume in your sports drink, protein shake, or post-workout bar can exceed the amount you actually burn in the workout itself.
Studies show that not eating, and thus not supplying the body with carbs, proteins, and fat during and immediately after a workout, can actually enhance the amount of growth hormone produced after a high-intensity training session. Growth hormone is what facilitates weight loss and increases strength, helps build lean muscles, and improves overall performance.
For those shake-chuggers and Power Bar-eaters who want to lose weight, I suggest these three things:
Instead of your current regimen, eat a clean snack about two hours to 30 minutes before you work out. It should be low in fat and fiber, so it’s easy to digest, and it should be about a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Most important, it should not be something from a package. Then all you need during and after your workout is water.
Don’t rush to get something in your system post workout. You don’t need it. The body is amazing at recovery. It utilizes things like human growth hormone, insulin, and increased blood flow to get nutrients to muscles to help with recovery and aid in supporting adaptation.
If you’re doing a workout that’s two hours or longer, think about these rules to follow in terms of fueling:
Make sure your gel has amino acids in it. This will keep your body from using it’s own muscle as fuel.
You need electrolytes that provide about 700 to 1200 mg of sodium per hour.
Try to consume at least 24 ounces of water every hour
Of course, if you’re trying to gain weight or get fatter even while you’re working out, just keep chugging those high-calorie shakes and eating those power bars! Otherwise, changing what and when you eat and drink, relative to your workout, will make a huge difference. Simple, huh? Probably not; it’s changing a habit, and habits can be difficult to change. However if you’re disciplined, you can do it, and your body will thank you.